Thursday, March 30, 2017

It Never Rains But Pours ... Or Floods

Very hectic week starting off in a very hectic way:

Sunday. The Day of Rest. Or, at Chez Hopper, the day of bagel run, Church, grocery shopping, five to six loads of laundry, house tidying, hamster cage and fish bowl cleaning, last-minute homework projects and other overdue discoveries. So last Sunday, after grinding through each and every one of the aforementioned, the wife and I finally got the little ones in bed by 9 and sat down to enjoy Happy Hour, the hour after our children go to sleep and before we go to sleep.

Normally we watch The Walking Dead, then the wife goes upstairs to bed and I read for a half-hour or so. Such was the case this night. I read perhaps a little too much, for I noted with shock the digital display 11:15 on the DVR. I went to the bathroom to brush and floss and get ready for bed myself when I heard a hissing noise.

This was a noise I never heard in my house before.

I went downstairs. Was it the radiators? They hiss, but this was not the normal hiss of steam. I was able to touch one without scalding my hand. Was it the dishwasher? It was running, so I turned it off, only to still hear that hiss. A faucet running? It wasn’t from the upstairs bathroom I was just in, so I checked the downstairs. Nothing running; not even the toilet.

Hesitantly I went down into the basement. We got a new furnace / boiler / water heater contraption back in November of 2015 that makes a hell of a lot of noise, but that’s usually the clang and bang of hot water and air shooting into cold seventy-five-year-old pipes. But that was where the hissing was coming from.

I opened the accordion doors that enclose the beast, and immediately found an expanding puddle of water on the floor. I heard the spatter of water shooting out from somewhere, and saw drops glistening all about the furnace and water heater. I reached in and put my hand behind one of the open pipes and my fingers found a stream of icy water shooting horizontally out the back against the concrete wall.

I panicked. There is nothing more I dread than water where it shouldn’t be in my house.

(I nixed us purchasing a dream house fifteen years ago simply because the realtor told me I’d have to buy Flood Insurance. No thanks.)

In a flash I ran up two flights of stairs and woke the wife. Then I grabbed a pail and went back to the basement. She called our plumber to see if he had an emergency service – why do these things always happen at 11:30 on a Sunday night? I wedged the pail up under the pipe and threw some towels on the floor to corral the expanding waterline. With frantic urgency I threw two dozen books up off the nearby rug and onto my desk. But my basement is a landscape of book skyscrapers and paperwork hills, and we needed to quell this growing disaster.

No luck with the plumber – answering machine. Plus I already emptied the pail twice and the water still shot out of the pipe with the same amount of pressure. Where’s the water shut-off? In fifteen years I’ve never had to use it. Must be in one of the two closets where we have the meters. The wife surfed the web on her phone looking for tips. She told me it’s outside on the side of the house. Was it? I dunno. I threw on some sandals, grabbed a flashlight, and went out into the 30-degree night in my t-shirt and sweatpants. Only thing on the side of the house was the FIOS stuff and the electric meter. Came back inside, went back downstairs, and opened up those closet doors.

Found a blue knob just off the floor, next to a gauge that measured “GALLONS.” That must be it. But it wouldn’t turn! The wife, holding a rapidly filling pail, said that that had to be it. I put some muscle in and eventually it turned, though after initial resistance it seemed much too easy to spin (Good Lord, I thought, just what we need right now – me to break the water shut off valve!).

“It’s starting to slow down!” she announced, and, yes, after about twenty minutes it was just a trickle.

She went to bed after mopping up the floor with beach towels. I turned off the heat (steam based), the dishwasher, and told her not to flush any toilets. Around 1 am I went back downstairs to empty the bucket a final time and noted it was leaking just a drop every couple of seconds. Then, and only then, I went to bed, but due to my own pipes overflowing with adrenaline, I didn’t get to sleep until 2 am.

Only to wake up at 6:30, to get back on the rat race merry-go-round.

Now, Thursday, I am starting to feel normal. Though I just nearly hyperextended my jaw in an extremely ostentatious but rewarding yawn.

On deck: Plenty of sleep this weekend, God willing.

PS. The plumber showed up around 11 am the next morning; good thing the wife works from home on Mondays. He said the water feeder thing was dirty due to lack of maintenance (true, we never scheduled maintenance this winter, but hey, I thought the thing was still brand new). Because of this, it didn’t know the accurate water level inside, so it kept pouring water into it, causing the leak out the overflow valve. Or something like that. $250 servicing got the furnace back up to normal, and we won’t need to service it again until November when we start using it once Fall turns frosty.

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